A valuable community centre in Thetford which the town council saved from ‘disrepair’ is being handed over to a co-operative next year.
From April 1, 2015, the Charles Burrell Centre, in Staniforth Road, will be run by a management committee and a board made up of representatives from the council and the community.
At a meeting on November 27, following extensive discussions about the best option for its future, town councillors voted to hand the community centre over to a co-operative.
Town councillor and Charles Burrell Committee chairman Terry Jermy said: “It was always the intention to move it away from the town council. There are sensible financial and administrative reasons, but we also wanted it to be a truly community led project.”
The centre’s new board will be made up of 11 representatives – three from the town council, three for its 21 tenants, one for local residents and three co-opted members based on the skills they could bring to the project.
Cllr Jermy said: “Now that it has been agreed, we are getting on with finding those 11, though nothing has been confirmed so far.”
The Charles Burrell Committee and the town council will continue to run the centre until the end of March.
The council has already given £23,000 to the committee to help it gain independence, and has pledged another £9,000 to help it employ two more staff members and to purchase new administrative equipment in the run-up to April.
Town council clerk Maurice Howard said: “The town council took on the site because we didn’t want it to fall into disrepair. It was always the idea that we would get it up and running.
“We looked as running it as a charitable enterprise, but decided the best way to take it forward was to run it as a co-operative where all the members can have a say.”
Recently appointed centre manager Mark Snowdon, former deputy manager of Thetford Sports Centre, said he is excited to have the opportunity to make the centre thrive.
“My plan is to make the Charles Burrell Centre the very heart of this community with a vision of it providing support to local businesses, helping create new ones and providing the area with a busy and vibrant hub that unites people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities,” he said.
Cllr Jermy said: “Mark is finding his feet and getting on with it, which is brilliant. We need an ongoing presence there to take it forward.”
He added: “I hope very much to be involved with the new co-operative and to still contribute.”